@1731-1780. He was the son of the Reverend William Edwards of Nanhoran, North Wales, and of his wife Frances Williams.
Having first gone to sea in 1745 as a cabin servant aboard the new Chesterfield 44, Captain William Gordon, Edwards enjoyed further employment aboard the new Sphinx 24, Captain William Lloyd from 1748-50, going out to Nova Scotia. He was commissioned lieutenant on 26 February 1755, and saw some action in the Channel aboard the new and successful cruiser Tartar 28, Captain John Lockhart Ross.
Promoted commander on 16 November 1757, Edwards immediately commissioned the new Favorite 16 which he took out with a convoy to Gibraltar in May 1758, assisting the St Albans 60, Captain Edward Vernon, in the capture of the French frigate Loire 36 in December. He commanded the Favorite in Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen’s encounter with the French and Spanish fleets off Gibraltar on 18 August 1759, but had already been posted captain with effect from 5 August.
During November 1759 he commissioned the recently captured Valeur 28 at Gibraltar in which he undertook a successful mission to the Dey of Algiers to seek recompense for piracy committed against a British vessel. He captured the French privateer Heureux Retour in July 1760, and early in the following year exchanged with Captain Robert Lambert of the Wager 20, later seeing duty in home waters. In May 1762 he commissioned the new Emerald 32, and he remained with her until she was paid off in March 1763, whereupon he retired ashore for the next fourteen and a half years to develop his inherited Welsh estate.
In September 1777 he commissioned the new Europa 64, and he retained the command until April of the following year, during which period she was renamed the Europe. His next command, the Cornwall 74, formed part of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet which left England on 9 June 1778 and was the first of the bedraggled force to reach New York, joining Vice-Admiral Lord Howe on 30 July but with three hundred men on the sick list. She took part in the actions with the French fleet commanded by the Comte d’Estaing in August 1778, and at that time was the largest ship available to Howe.
Sailing for the West Indies later that year with Byron, the Cornwall fought at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779, suffering casualties of sixteen men killed and twenty-seven wounded. The ship was one of three that were badly out of position at the start of the action and could well have been captured if the French had shown a little more enthusiasm. Thereafter Edwards commanded a small squadron that cruised off Martinique and took the French frigate Alcmene 30 on 24 October.
Remaining with the Leeward Islands fleet under the new commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir George Rodney, the Cornwall fought in the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780 where she incurred the heaviest casualties in the fleet, losing twenty-one men killed and forty-nine wounded. Even so, the fact that she was late into the action did not please the pernickety admiral. The ship was repaired at sea, and continuing in the Leeward Islands campaign fought in the fleet skirmishes during May, losing when another seven men killed and fifteen wounded. By now the Cornwall was in a very poor condition and Edwards left her shortly afterwards to return home. She was finally scuttled at St. Lucia on 5 October 1780 having been deemed ‘unserviceable’..
In the meantime, on 12 July 1780, the sickly Edwards had died on the voyage to England aboard the Actaeon 44, Captain Robert Keeler. His widow later erected a monument to his memory at Llangian Church in North Wales.
Edwards married the heiress Catherine Browning of Pullox Hill, Bedfordshire, and had issue two sons and three daughters. His younger son, John Browning Edwards, entered the Navy and rose to the rank of captain. He inherited the Welsh estate of Nanhoran near Pwlheli in modern day Gwynedd where he spent a good deal of time and money improving the house and gardens, taking a great deal of personal interest in the trees and flora. It had been planned that on his return from the West Indies Edwards would enter the Houses of Parliament as the M.P for Aylesbury.
He was known by his men as ‘Old Hammer and Nails’ for his propensity to nail his colours to the mast prior to going into action, and he was seen as brave if somewhat eccentric. On one occasion, having been struck down motionless on deck and taken for dead he astonished his men by suddenly leaping to his feet and extolling them to fight on.